TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Trent Richardson is no longer one of college football’s most talked about backups.
The tailback for No. 2 Alabama figures to be the centerpiece of the offense after taking over for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Richardson has already been on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice.
He has drawn attention for his sculpted physique, weight room prowess and powerful runs. He’s even had some Heisman buzz of his own.
But Richardson doesn’t seem all that impressed by any of those things going into his third season.
“He’s not the type of person that gets hyped up by what fans are saying,” older brother Terrell Richardson said. “He doesn’t want to go out there like, `I’m going for the Heisman.’ He just wants to show people he can play football.”
There’s no doubt about that.
Richardson has spent the past two seasons bulldozing and outrunning defenders and even corralling some of the headlines from Ingram. He’s shown enough potential for stardom that losing Ingram has caused little, if any, concern leading up to the season opener against Kent State.
Coach Nick Saban isn’t worrying about how Richardson will handle his new role — and increased attention.
“I don’t see a big difference,” Saban said. “Trent is who he is, and he’s always been a good leader, a hard worker and a guy that affects other people because of the kind of person that he is. Now that his circumstances have changed, and he can be the lead dog at running back, that doesn’t really create a new person.
“He’s always been a good player because of who he is.”
Richardson has rushed for 1,451 yards and 14 touchdowns the past two seasons, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He also caught 23 passes and returned kicks last season, racking up a team-high 36 plays of 15 yards or more.
He started two games when Ingram was injured last season, seeing limited action in a route of San Jose State and rushing for 144 yards and a touchdown against Penn State, only his third 100-yard game.
And with a new quarterback, still to be named, a veteran offensive line and the departure of star receiver Julio Jones, there’s little doubt that Richardson is not only the lead running back, but the leader on offense.
He’s says he’s mindful of Ingram’s frequent advice “to never be complacent and stay humble.” Ingram is now with the New Orleans Saints as a first-round pick.
“He was a humble player. Mark always kept us up,” Richardson said, a graduate of Emmitt Smith’s alma mater in Pensacola, Fla. “He always told me, `Nobody’s going to take you down at one time, one player.’ He was always talking about that. When we were out there doing reps or whatever, he’s always going to tell me, `Hey, I want you to be better than me.”’
The 5-foot-11, 224-pounder might be bigger, stronger and faster. The former Florida state weightlifting champion said he was measured at 6 percent body fat going into spring practice.
Richardson said during the spring that coaches have stopped him at 475 pounds on the bench press, and he “did that easy.” They’ve limited him to 600 pounds on the squat since his freshman year and 365 in the power clean, “and I was doing that in high school.”
Noseguard Josh Chapman, regarded as one of Alabama’s strongest players, said Richardson returned this season “stronger and leaner.” He said the back often joins him in doing squats.
“Sometimes I try to run away from it,” Chapman said. “The man’s strong. With him being a running back getting hit, he’s still squatting the house.”
As for a tailback trying to lift weights with him, Chapman said: “That’s a whole different type of running back. I always tell him he ain’t human.”
Terrell Richardson said they were raised to work hard and never ask for anything. Trent Richardson grew up playing basketball, football and baseball “and never had an offseason,” his older brother said.
“He was kind of like a workaholic,” Terrell Richardson said, a former Louisiana-Lafayette defensive end. Trent was working at a popular buffet restaurant in Orange Beach, Ala., at 16 while playing sports, he said.
They grew up in a full house, with seven kids, their mother and grandmother crammed into four bedrooms. Terrell Richardson said their mother, Katrina, basically adopted her best friend’s kids. She still keeps his son and Trent’s two daughters, 5-year-old Taliyah and 3-year-old Elevara.
“We came from nothing,” Terrell Richardson said. “Our main philosophy growing up was to make sure mom didn’t have to ask anybody for anything. We wanted to take care of her.”
Trent Richardson said his daughters come to or watch every game.
“They know `Roll Tide’ Alabama, they know everything,” he said. “They know what number I am, they wear my jersey and everything. Those girls are so smart. They’ll tell me, `You fumbled the ball.’ Or, `You scored a touchdown now.’
“It’s kind of cute when you hear it from your daughters.”
Richardson said he only played in a couple of games his first two years of high school after twice tearing ligaments in his ankle. He wound up running for 419 yards in a game and becoming one of the nation’s top prospects.
Despite all the hoopla, teammates say he was readily accepted.
“To me, Trent has always been one of the guys,” tight end Michael Williams said. “I know he’s been a backup but he’s been a leader on this team since Day 1. A freshman walking in with his size, I don’t think anybody’s going to mess with him.
“It will be very exciting to see him start being that main back and get most of the carries. I don’t think he’ll disappoint at all.”
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